Prayer: Always More to Think About

In the Theta Alpha Journal I read about praying for the Ukrainians. In our local church we pray for good outcomes from surgery. Frequently I hear comments like, “I’ll be praying for you today; hope it goes well!”

I am not criticizing this. I think wishing well of people, and thinking of them empathetically, is a good thing. But I think that prayer can be much more.

What God wants is our eternal happiness. Shouldn’t that be what we pray for as well? Nadine Rogers, in the Theta Alpha Journal, reminds us that those who lived in Jesus’ time were the first to expect Jesus to solve their earthly problem. It happened to be Roman oppression. We find this so obvious–those simple Jews, expecting God to solve their worldly problems!–then we pray for earthly things ourselves.

My friend Susie’s ex-husband had an affair, lied about it, initiated a divorce, and never expressed remorse. Susie once told me that in the depths of her shock, she still had a tiny inkling of clarity about the situation. “I knew I was actually okay,” she said, “but that he was in deep trouble.” He was the one to pray for, she said, not herself. She knew she was going to be okay. But him? She wasn’t sure at all.

How do we know what prayers line up with heavenly happiness? Maybe it’s the Russians, not the Ukrainians, that need our prayer. These days I pray for people to receive insights, to act courageously, to dare to see their own demons, to listen to their guardian angels, to see heaven where it appears in their lives.

I get put to the test often, myself. When my daughter Lamar was flying home from Peru with no phone (stolen), I badly wanted the flights to go smoothly. I have a brother-in-law whose body is inexplicably failing him, and it’s hard to imagine not praying for a return to health. Every time I start the engine on our sailboat as we get close to shore in the frigid waters of Lake Superior, a near-automatic supplication goes out. “Engine, please start.” Maybe we are really just needing to feel the Lord’s closeness at those times. Sometimes I am able to make my words match my intention. “Lord help me to feel your presence whatever happens.” “Lord, give us strength and courage to face the struggles ahead.” “Lord help me to remember how time heals, in as many moments as I can.”

Thanks to Jeremy Simons for finding and the Swedenborg Foundation for publishing this beautiful quote:

Regarded in itself, praying is talking with God, while taking an inward view of the things we are praying about. In answer we receive a similar stream of speech into the perceptions or thoughts of our mind, so that our inner depths open up to God, in a way. The experience varies, depending on our mood and the nature of the subject we are praying about. If we pray from love and faith and focus on or seek only what is heavenly and spiritual, something resembling a revelation emerges while we pray. It discloses itself in our emotions in the form of hope, comfort, or an inward stirring of joy. (Secrets of Heaven §2535)

About Katya Gordon

Katya Goodenough Gordon lives in Two Harbors, Minnesota, just a block from the north shore of Lake Superior. She has lived in this picturesque setting since 2008 when she and her family completed their first yearlong voyage living aboard a sailboat. Aside from home, marriage, and family, she is an author and reporter, a radio show host, a climate activist, and an active member of the United Church of Two Harbors. Born and bred in Bryn Athyn, PA, she is increasingly aware of and grateful for the ideas instilled in her childhood from Swedenborg's Writings, and always looking for ways to spread these life-giving truths in her community and beyond.

4 thoughts on “Prayer: Always More to Think About

  1. Beautiful, Katya! What seems to shine through for me is ‘love of the neighbour’ – like when your friend, Susie, realized that it was her ex that needed her prayers, that she herself was indeed ok. So thoughtful, and brave, of her! Something we all need to remember…

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Loved this Katya! I have often felt ‘perplexed’ about praying for others, wondering how my thoughts and prayers could ‘affect’ outcomes, etc. I feel like your piece added some great insight. Thanks! Also, I love the part in your bio about your increasing appreciation for the insights and truths in the Writings. To me, that highlights how those truths are universal and it’s not about them ‘belonging’ to any particular organization. Beautiful. Love you, cuz ; D

  3. Yes!! This!! Beautiful, Katya. Thank you! -I love this kind of thing, that just goes that much deeper: not just wishing our neighbours well on this physical plane, but deeper, too, on the spiritual plane. (..and celestial?.. I guess we can want that for them, too, although that’s a bit outside of my comprehension right now!)

    I do find this to be a bit of a conundrum, though, too: I used to want desperately to pray for a baby, but felt that I needed to pray for ‘deeper’ things (I did learn to pray for what the Lord deems to be best for me, and for the strength to withstand the trials of infertility) — and then in the other ear my dear husband – a GC minister, no less – was telling me that I *could* pray for a baby,…… 🤷🏻‍♀️ I haven’t figured out that dichotomy, yet.

    1. Jen, I haven’t figured it out either! Very hard to imagine how it could be anything but the Lord’s eternal wish for you to have a baby, so surely that’s safe! yet it’s external, and the truth is, you can go to heaven without having that baby, and many people do…… thank goodness we don’t have to linger on that, for you anyway, anymore…..

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